Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is what I get for staying up late gaming....

Since Lord of the Rings Online is updating to Book 8 today, I stayed up late last night collecting goodies and other things that I know are going to get changed for the better according to the release notes. In fact, it appears the game's subscriber base is actually increasing--not bad for a 2 year old game.

What did this mean? I stayed up until about 2am gaming, in anticipation of the LOTRO servers being offline for about 6 hours today (5-11am my time) while they update the game for the major release. My theory at 1 am was that I would be able to sleep late while the game was updating, and then I wouldn't feel like I was missing so much time from the game. After all, I'd be sleeping through most of the time they were offline.

This would not normally be an issue since it's summer time and I can sleep in. Of course, this is assuming, that I didn't have kids who decided to have a fight at the bottom of my bedroom stairs at 7:49 am. I awoke to screams of "Mine! Mine! Mine!" Now, mind you, this was not the cute kind of "Mine! Mine! Mine!" that the gulls called out in the movie "Finding Nemo". If you have not seen Finding Nemo, go rent it or buy it--it's hilarious.

No, this was not the cute gull-Mine. This was the obnoxious, ear-splittling tantrum-child "MINE!!!!!!!!" It's the kind of "MINE!!!!!!!" that makes you wonder what possessed you to ever have unprotected sex in the conscious decision to procreate.

What where they fighting about? A 6 year old stuffed calico cat. I am not kidding. Why they decided at that time of day to fight over a stuffed piece of fake fur with cheesy plastic eyes, I don't know. I came downstairs to see them both lying on the ground wrestling over the darn thing. In no uncertain terms, I declared the cat was now MINE!!!!!!! and dragged myself over to the coffee pot, because further sleep wasn't going to happen. My Trusty Hubby, God bless him, had started a pot earlier that morning, and it was nice and hot. It was the only positive to waking up that early.
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Yes! A Funnel Cloud, Finally!

Living in Wisconsin, as I do, you get used to severe weather. We see a ton of snow-storms in the winter and thunderstorms in the summer. We don't usually see tornadoes, however--they're rather rare in our part of the state.

I have been fascinated with tornadoes ever since watching The Wizard of Oz. There's just something about this powerful force of nature that is breath-taking, and not just because it can magically turn Almira Gulch into the Wicked Witch of the West. I thought they were so cool that in fourth grade I wanted to be (besides a geologist or paleontologist) a meteorologist. I even wrote a fan letter when I was 10 to WTMJ's chief meteorologist at the time, Paul Joseph. Now, if that wasn't a harbinger of me becoming a complete and total Geek, I don't know what is. To his credit, he took the time to write me back, gave me a few book references, and told me the basics of what was involved in learning meteorology. That helped fuel my love for weather and inspire my pursuit of science. I still have that letter, believe it or not, in a scrapbook.

Yesterday, the weather got truly exciting, and by 'exciting', I mean 'potential for finally seeing a tornado at the age of 'permanently-29', w00t!' Trusty Hubby does not call this 'exciting'. He does not share my same enthusiasm for forces of nature that can create windspeeds of over 250 mph, destroy buildings, flip over cars, throw cows and trucks in the air, and in general cut swathes of destruction for miles. He calls this 'foolish' and 'dangerous'. 'Idiotic' and 'completely crazy' pass his lips occasionally, too. I cheerfully ignore these comments.

I was prepared for yesterday. When I heard on the radio that the weather might be 'eventful' on Thursday night and into Friday, my first visit was to the National Weather Service page for my area, followed closely thereafter by the Storm Prediction Center. I was in seventh heaven when I found out my county was in the 'moderate risk for severe weather zone'. I was later disappointed when the SPC moved the zone south, but lucky for me, the weather came through.

It rained all morning, dashing my hopes for severe weather, because that kept the temperatures down. Early afternoon, however, the rain moved out, the sun brightened the sky, and the temperature went up a good 15 degrees. The humidity went up, too. It was a phenomenally juicy atmosphere, and I cheered on the thunderstorms that formed and frequently checked the radar on my smartphone. I will never be without an internet-capable phone ever again after this. I finished with one patient and noticed the sky had gotten very dark. One of the staffers mentioned "You should see it out back--it's black out there." Of course I had to go quickly to investigate this. Trusty co-worker Derek was outside watching the storm. I immediately noticed the section of the thunderstorm base that was significantly lower than the rest of the storm--a classic wall cloud. Since this wall cloud was only a few miles away, this probably should have been a signal for me to take cover, but it was so fascinating to watch that I stayed. Then, I saw the funnel shape hanging off the bottom back end of the wall cloud. Derek asked if I thought we were going to have a tornado. I pointed at the funnel, explained what it was and informed him we were having one right now. He nodded and said, "Cool!" I knew I liked Derek for a reason, and not just because he is a fellow Cubs fan.

The sirens went off at that point, and we decided the funnel was coming a bit too close for comfort, as in 'nearly on top of us.' At this point, we thought it was prudent to take cover. The funnel went over the top of our building an touched down not to far from us. It also dropped hail and two inches of water in under 2 hours--quite an impressive storm. After the funnel passed over, I called Trusty Hubby, and with glee that was almost disturbing to the rest of the staff, I said "Honey! I just saw a funnel cloud! It went right over us!"

Geeky Mom birding

Yep, as if I'm not geeky enough, I'm also a birder.

For some reason, someone decades ago decided that it was not cool to be a 'bird-watcher', so they came up with the term 'birder'. This is how we distinguish people new to the hobby from those of us who have a good 100 species or so under our belts. If someone comes to a birding event and says "I'm a bird-watcher", we birders look around at each other, nod our heads sagely, and think 'N00b!' Then we help them learn how to use their binoculars properly (hint--find the bird with the naked eye, and bring your binoculars up quickly. Don't try to spot it through the binoculars), where to look (sides of trunks, on branches, hiding in the leaves, paddling on the lakes, etc.), birding etiquette (never disturb nests, no matter how badly you want to squash the starling eggs, and don't 'pish' frequently and upset the birds, and for God's sake please throw your water bottle away in the trash can!), and how to find things quickly in field guides. We might chuckle at newbies, but good birders are always helpful to them just the same.

I discovered, however, that binoculars are 'way cool' with middle schoolers, and I a. lost Geek Points (tm) and b. gained Cool Points (tm) because I brought not one, not two, but four sets of binoculars on my son's field trip to a YMCA park last month. I passed them out to eager students who proceeded to look through the wrong end of them. After reassuring them that no, they weren't complete idiots for doing that, we checked out the edges of the lake for sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, and swallows, and saw lots of wonderful species. This was Cool for about 3 minutes for most of the students, but I was pleased that some of the students took to it for a little longer. I learned later from the teacher that "Patrick's Mom was Really Cool (tm) because she brought binoculars!" I was just crazy enough to trust them with something that's just as expensive as a Nintendo DS.

Now, the camp leaders/middle-school herders had the day-trip 'experience' down to a science, which meant capturing lake bugs and assorted other fresh-water creatures that are Truly Gross But Fun, followed by lunch, followed by a looooooooong hike to a place where they could learn to build a shelter in case they survived a plane crash in the wilderness. We adults think loooooooooong hikes are brilliant because it tires out middle-schoolers enough to change the speech volume level from 'ear-splitting shrieks' to 'mere loud screaming'. Anyway, I learned that the most important thing for survival in the wilderness following an imaginary plane crash is not food, not shelter, not even water (which was number 2) but "a positive attitude". If I ever am so lucky as to experience survival of a plane crash, my initial thought will be to a. call 911 on my cell phone and b. go wherever the hell the pilot goes because he's probably got the GPS. Fortunately, the middle-schooler herders were bright enough not to discuss how to start a campfire, or my binoculars would have seen use besides sighting birds. 10x50 binoculars can do a pretty good job of heating things up if you allow the sun to focus through them.

Nevertheless, I did get some decent birding in that day, in spite of being forced to trek a mile into the camp's forest to a little shelter where we proceeded to make tree-branch teepees. I let the kids run around like maniacs collecting wood lying on the ground while I cheerfully watched the birds fly around. Apparently the birds are used to loud middle-schoolers, because I didn't have too much trouble seeing them. I did manage to earn back Geek Points (tm) by using Cornell University's online bird guide and then entering the data into their eBird site. If you fellow birders haven't discovered eBird yet, click the link and check it out--it's extremely easy to use, and you can even enter those old life-lists you have sitting around.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Geeky Mom Exercise

While cooking my "Better than Eggs" ham and cheddar omelet this morning, I was considering what exercise I needed to get done today. I've started the Great Weight Loss Quest, which will include lap-band surgery. I took Taekwondo three times a week for about 5 years, and lost a whole 10 pounds or so. Now, I did get my 1st Dan, which I'm very proud about. However, I realized that even that level of working out isn't cutting it for weight loss, so it's time to go on the Surgery Quest. Anyway, I still need to exercise, and my crapped-out knee isn't up to doing roundhouse and spinning back kicks anymore.

I hate exercise.

Exercise is boring. Taekwondo does not count as exercise--there was always something new and interesting to do. Let's face it, there's also a lot of camaraderie in doing 200 push-ups and 100 sit-ups with fellow colored and black belts, and then beating the snot out of each other in the sparring ring. I consider this Fun.

Finding something equally as Fun is very difficult. First, it has to be cheap. With Trusty Hubby on active duty, we have to watch our pennies. So, gym membership is right out. The monthly fees cost too much right now. It also has the side benefit of not having to deal with side-long glances from people comparing themselves to me to feel better about themselves, and/or worried looks about if I'm going to have a heart attack, despite the fact that after 5 years of Taekwondo my heart is probably in far better shape than theirs.

Second, it has to be Fun. I like socializing and I like working towards a goal when exercising, because then it doesn't feel like 'exercising.

Third, it has to ideally be really Geeky. This is important.

So now you're thinking I have a Wii Fit, right?

You're right. I have one of those. It's not serving as a resting spot for books, the large cup of iced tea, and a half-eaten bag of Doritos next to the sofa, either. I'm actually using it. It's totally cheesy, the music is vomitrociously cutesy, but it's fun. My Mii and I run around on some fake cartoon marathon course, do some step-training in front of an entire audience of other Miis like we're some exercising rock stars, slalom, and do hula hoops. I've tried the ski jump. I suck. I keep crashing, even when I bend and jump at exactly the same time as my Mii. The game cheerfully ignores that and tells me it's very sorry, but I went splat off the end of the ski-slide. Wii Fit feeds my goal-oriented mindset--it informs me how many minutes I've exercised and has leaderboards for all the activities, so I can beat my high score as I improve, or get beaten by my kids who do everything better than me because they don't have crapped out knees.

I hit on an even better better way to be active, however. I just turned on Rock Band 2, grabbed the guitar, and started dancing along the music like a real Rock Star. The kids think it's hilarious that their Geeky Mom is rocking out, but they jump around and get active with me, too, so it can't be that ridiculous. Then again, it can. I mean, how serious can you take anyone who dances around in the living room with a video game and a plastic toy guitar? However, I'm earning Xbox 360 achievements playing, and while I have to play on medium so that I don't fail out while dancing around with my guitar, it definitely falls in the category of Fun.

If you add Jae Onasi to your friends list, we can rock out together some time. :D